Editors’ Note: On Saturday, February 8, 2003, at 2:00 PM, Mountain Standard Time, President Gordon B. Hinckley will speak to nearly a million children in an unprecedented worldwide satellite broadcast commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Church’s Primary organization. Meridian’s editors wanted to know more about this event. On Thursday, February 6, we interviewed Sister Colleen Menlove, Primary General President of the Church.

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Meridian:
Why a broadcast to the primary children, what generated this idea?

Sister Menlove:
President Hinckley loves the children and he understands their great potential and it was his desire to have the children come together and to feel the Spirit. So in the Conference Center here in Salt Lake City and in stake centers and locations throughout the world they will gather to be taught by a Prophet of God. President Hinckley has spoken to the youth and to their mothers and fathers and he just wanted to speak to the children. He wants them to know who they are and to help them increase their faith in Jesus Christ.

Sister Colleen Menlove with her counselors, Sister Sydney S. Reynolds (left) and Sister Gayle M. Clegg

Meridian:
How do you capture the attention of a million children? Can they sit still?

Sister Menlove:
The broadcast is designed for ages seven to eleven to speak to their age group. It will only be one hour long. Each of the general presidency will give short talks and we will have a marvelous 350 voice children’s choir providing the music. Then the Prophet will speak to them. We believe that the children are capable of significant spiritual development and this will be a great experience for them to sit at the feet of the Prophet and be taught by him.


President Hinckley’s remarks will originate from a meeting of 21,000 children, parents and Primary leaders in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. The meeting will be broadcast in 22 languages to chapels in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America. It will be rebroadcast on 15 February via satellite to Brazil, Europe, South Africa and parts of Uruguay.


Meridian:
What do you hope to have happen because of this broadcast?

Sister Menlove:
There are so many challenges that these children are facing daily. They can choose something of great substance and the principles of the gospel give them good choices. The gospel offers them faith and hope and a path to follow the Savior. They will be prepared to make righteous choices.

Meridian:
How does the Primary Organization compare to other children’s organizations in the world?

Sister Menlove:
There are about 1 million children in 26,000 primaries. The children are taught by loving teachers who are prepared each week to teach them principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems to be quite unique. I don’t know that there is anything else like it in the world.

Meridian:
Tell us about the music in Primary. Why does it stick with us all of our lives?

Sister Menlove:
Music has a powerful influence upon our lives. It can motivate and teach us. It can help us remember. These messages are there in times when adults and children need to remember. They learn very young and this stays with them and strengthens them in times of need. When I was first called to this position I felt so inadequate. I went home and listened to primary music. It reaffirmed and reassured me of the things that I knew to be true. It lifted and strengthened me. So many of our youth want to join in with the Primary songs. It’s fun to see a dad join in song with his four year old. These songs teach such simple truths.


The Primary organization had its beginnings in the pioneer settlement of Farmington, Utah, in 1878. A local mother, Aurelia Spencer Rogers, felt parents needed help in teaching their children gospel principles and polite behavior. She suggested that an organization be established to do just that. Church President John Taylor agreed, and on 25 August 1878, the first Primary meeting was held with 224 boys and girls in attendance.


Meridian:
Do you feel a sense of mission about the Primary?

Sister Menlove:
As a presidency we feel unified in our desire to follow the prophet and follow his direction and helping build the kingdom in all parts of the world. And we can do it best by following the prophet. Anything we can do to help build the kingdom worldwide is what we want to do in the Primary. The Prophet wants so much to build faith in Jesus Christ. We want to teach as he teaches. We will listen carefully to him and we know that the children will be listening. The prophet is very concerned about families. The primary is about assisting parents and strengthening families and helping children understand the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Meridian:
When you travel around the Church—what do you see? Tell us about the Primary in the other parts of the world.

Sister Menlove:
I’ve been able to visit primaries in Nigeria and South Africa and the Philippines and Hong Kong and Chile and other parts of South America. The resources vary. Leadership skills vary—but the light of the gospel brings hope and joy regardless of how simply it is taught. I’ve seen this at the foothills of the Andes and all over the world. It’s all about the caring relationships the teachers form with the children. We don’t worry much about the children when they are being loved.

Meridian:
What are some of the challenges we face as we watch the world encroach upon our children?

Sister Menlove:
The world does press in on our children with so many options that would not bring them joy and happiness and not bring them joy. These years in Primary give them a chance to practice the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to help these young boys to prepare to receive the priesthood and for the young girls to learn to be righteous young women. Here we see the joy of serving others and learn the responsibility of serving others.

Meridian:
Is the world capturing our children’s attention more than we want? How do we keep the children on the right path?

Sister Menlove:
I think we see the children emulating some of the world’s role models out there and that generates concern. But I think if they are around others who find great joy in goodness and loving and serving then this captures their attention even more. I know the influences and challenge of the world are real but we need to offer them something else, something good, something worthwhile.


President Hinckley said, “Children are the epitome of innocence, they are the epitome of purity, they are the epitome of love, they are the epitome of hope and gladness in this difficult and troubled world.”


Meridian:
What are your hopes for this broadcast on Saturday?

Sister Menlove:
As I have looked at the children in the choir—this great 350-voice choir of children—realizing what an important occasion this is, I hope that children will know that they are loved and that they have a great future and that the parents can understand who these children are and what they can become.


 

I hope the children will know that they are loved. All this is done in recognition of that. The broadcast give us an opportunity to refocus on parents and children and recognize how important these children are to us. There will be messages that linger in our hearts. The theme of the Primary this year is “I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the theme for our meeting is “I will follow Him in faith.” This is an important year and I think this meeting will have messages that will be a part of the whole year and for years to come.

Broadcast and rebroadcast times are as follows. All times are Mountain Standard Time.

Original Broadcast
Saturday, February 8, 2003, at 2:00 p.m.

KBYU-TV
Saturday, 8 February, at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, 9 February, at 6:00 p.m.

BYU Television
Saturday, 8 February, at 2:00 p.m. (Live)
Sunday, 9 February, at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 19 February, at 5:00 p.m.

KBYU-FM
Saturday, 8 February, at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, 9 February, at 5:00 p.m.

BYU Radio
Saturday, 8 February, at 2:00 p.m. (Live)
Sunday, 9 February, at 5:00 p.m.